Powered by Bravenet Bravenet Blog

Subscribe to Journal

Tuesday, September 22nd 2015


"Well-umm ... " and Nolo Contendere

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: homebound

Pretty soon my blog should have more conceptual content again, as well as pictures, but at the moment it must serve merely as vehicle to report on my medical adventures to anyone who might be interested. Actually, the digressions in this post are longer than the report. I hope that the style will be entertaining enough for my patient readers to get through it, even if the content is fairly weak. A note to any new readers: It is very seldom that my tongue is not in my cheek when I report on myself.


“He hasn’t been driving, has he?” Dr. G. turned his head away from me, perched on the examination table, towards June, seated on a little wooden chair in the corner. One or both of us replied, “Well-umm …”

Let me inject here a quick observation on the phrase “Well-umm …” Despite its innocuous appearance, it plays a significant role in American conversational English. If I remember correctly, it was the late actor McLean Stevenson who once described his early career as consisting of “Well-umm …” roles, viz. his characters would be surprised by some event or question, and he would barely have time enough to say "Well-umm …” before the more important characters would take over the scene.

But its meaning goes beyond covering up a moment of hesitancy. It is roughly synonymous with the more formal nolo contendere, the plea made famous by the late Spiro T. Agnew (1918-1996), known as "Ted Agnew" the moderate Republican governor of Maryland (‘67-‘69) who reinvented reinvent his image as "Spiro Agnew," the conservative Republican U.S. vice president (’69-’73). His Maryland campaign jingle, “My Kind of Man, Ted Agnew is,” will probably always stick in my mind, as well as some of his alliterated put-downs of political opponents, e.g., “the nattering nabobs of negativism.” (The phrase was actually concocted by William Safire. Click here for its common revisionist description and assessment, and here for an analysis of its actual occurrence and significance.)

Hmm. It looks like I’m at least sufficiently back in form to engage in my usual practice of “stacking.” So, I need to remember now to pop back to the topic of the moment, the phrase “Well-umm … “ I would suggest that the person using the phrase is making what J.L. Austin (1911-1960) called a “performative utterance." Instead of declaring anything, the speaker is mumbling an inanity that really serves as an admission of guilt. It is closely related to, “Well, you know …” and “Yeah, ah, yeah, about that …”

Not that we realized before that moment today that there was any “guilt” involved, having faithfully followed and defended the doctor’s other orders. It hadn’t occurred to me that in my present stage of recovery I should not be piloting a ton of metal on wheels through traffic. Duh! We had not made the longer trip to Tennessee, but I had driven us on several short shopping excursions. Needless to say, the driving prohibition does make sense, but it also makes life a little more complicated for us, particularly since June is not very comfortable behind the wheel any more. Still, Dr. G. instructed us that I am not to drive for at least another two more weeks and should consider myself “homebound.”

I must say that Dr. G has surprised me a little by how seriously he really is taking what happened to me, but, as he explained, he has seen too many people have a mini-stroke, wave it off as soon as they think they feel better, and wind up with a major stroke not too long thereafter. So, in addition to taking all my meds, which I am, and staying away from tension or pressure, which I’m trying to do as much as it is under my control, I’m also not supposed to drive for at least the next two weeks. This directive is being reinforced inasmuch as Dr. G’s office will schedule some physical therapy for me as a “homebound” patient, which means that the therapist will come to our house, something that really makes me feel just a little older than my usual self-perception. Finally, our good doctor commended June on doing her job as my “guard,” a quite thankless role at times over these last couple of weeks.


Win on front porch

Thanks to those who gave a few moments of their time for my front-porch StreetJelly attempt last Sunday. Alas! I had no sooner started the set, when the gentleman across the street revved up his lawn mower. And when I thought he was done, he cranked up his gas-powered weed whacker, which exceeded the lawn mower in decibels. Time to cue “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” (This video is by Carole King who co-wrote the song; I couldn’t find a listenable Monkees’ version.) Anyway, sorry about the assault on your ears if you tuned in on Sunday to my impromptu set in the open air of Smalltown, USA. I’m planning on doing my usual StreetJelly show this coming Thursday at 9pm Eastern. Since it’s the fourth Thursday of the month, it’ll be an all-gospel program.


4 comment(s) / leave a comment

Saturday, September 19th 2015


My Mini-Stroke

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Alert and witty

Mini-stroke (def.)

1. In mini-golf an integer added to your total score each time your club head addresses a ball and propels it into motion. Also, the number you may have deducted from your total score if you didn’t get through the windmill on the first try when nobody was looking.

2. In medicine, something weird that happens to your brain for a short while. It is often connected to temporary amnesia.

For the record, and perhaps as an explanation that may be helpful for anyone else encountering this phenomenon, here are my reflections on my recent “mini-stroke.” I trust that I can present this episode in such a way that it will not read like an excerpt from my medical files. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or other kind of medical professional, and that I am not dispensing advice or information on the basis of medical authority. I am merely relating what I experienced and what was told me, couched in the terms as I understand them. If you have a medical issue, please see a medical professional, not my blog.

Here is what I remember about Tuesday, September 8, until the evening.

That’s it.

The description above also applies to most of the days just before, with only a few dreamlike patches, and, on a still-continuing basis, many of the days thereafter (including, e.g., what I now remember about events, say, three days ago).  Things are improving, but it’s going to take a while before everything in my gray matter gets properly restructured and hooked up again. So, I can tell you about the central part of the story only on the basis of what June or Nick, Meghan, and Seth have related to me.

Everyone has assured me that I did not say anything that I might have found embarrassing in retrospect. That’s great; in fact, I’m not sure I can go that long under normal conditions.

Let me begin by making this assertion, still keeping in mind that I’m expressing a lay person’s opinion: I believe that stress per se does not usually cause a physical problem for an otherwise healthy person, but if the stress becomes traumatic, and if one already has a vulnerable area, stress can become a strong catalyst and facilitator for various conditions. Actually, Dr. W. once told me in a somewhat different context that I was experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms; my point is that I am prone to somewhat severe reactions to stress. And, over the last six weeks or so, I had once again found myself under a great amount of stress, whether it was self-imposed or not doesn’t matter here. June had already been telling me that I was taking on too many projects, but I find it practically impossible to decline whenever someone tells me, “Win, you do such a great job with this, why don’t you just go ahead with it.”

If anyone reading this feels singled out, please take my word for it that you are not; I might not even remember that you said something along that line to me. Nevertheless, it’s been there many times, and I refer to my reaction to it as the George McFly syndrome. As I’m sure you recall, in “Back to the Future” George M. did the homework for Biff and his buddies and then endured their derision and pranks when he did not do exactly what they wanted. I’ve complained for a long time, going back to many years before my retirement from Taylor, that I was tired of being George McFly. But then again, I bear a great amount of blame for giving in too easily. (But not in toto; because the stated or implied request maybe should not even have been made and often does not actually end with that initial line.) Anyway, I really, really am not just thinking of one or two people or projects specifically; I’m just relating to how I wound up generating stress in my life. As readers of my blog know, I don’t try to force a shoe on anyone’s feet, so, if it didn’t come in your size, don’t try to wear it.

Then came the attempt at chronotherapy, as described in the previous entry. I kept it up for a while, but eventually had to bail out. For one thing, in the first week I saw a doctor about my “trigger finger,” and he gave me a cortisone shot. Unfortunately, cortisone frequently keeps people awake. It’s absolutely necessary that during the therapy one sleeps during the designated hours, and the shot prevented it one “night” early on. Also, there has been a lot of coming and going and unusual noises in our house lately during the daylight hours because our good friend John R., artist, builder, and renovator par excellence, is placing an addition on the back of our house, specifically a small laundry room and a whole new entry way. And thirdly, I discovered that, as my schedule was being moved up by one hour every day, I got too goofed up during waking hours to concentrate on any of the projects to which I had committed, and that this increasing stress also interfered with the chronotherapy. So, finally I decided that I would have to quit the therapy and maybe give it a shot again later. I tried to focus on just one project and dismiss the others from my mind, but doing so was just a way of trying to fool myself. I knew they were still all there. So, I cannot say with assurance either that stress caused the event or, for that matter, that it was the writing projects that caused the stress, but I do know that I was living with more stress on my mind than I was letting on to anyone (except, of course, to June, who frequently knows what I’m feeling before I become aware of it).

Monday, Sept. 7, was Labor Day. I know that much because I’ve consulted a calendar. I cooked supper and made the world’s greatest pork chops in caramelized onions. I didn’t remember those until June mentioned them to me when we got home on the subsequent Thursday, and then it was just a vague memory, more like remembering snatches of a dream.

From here on out for a while, I’m relying on what June and the kids told me. On Tuesday morning, when I got up, I did not recognize many objects in the house, was totally surprised at the addition John was putting up, and did not remember anything going back for a decade or more. Later on, when I was being given the usual quiz by medical personnel, I finally nailed it down that the present year was 2012, and I had no idea who is currently the president of our nation, to name just two instances of my confused state.

A serious complicating issue was that I had planned earlier to take the truck to the shop on that Tuesday because its brakes were not working due to a leak in the brake fluid line. Consequently, June had no way of taking me to the hospital or to flit back and forth between there and home later on. I do not know whom she called first, but Nick and Meghan wound up driving us to the hospital, and Seth joined us a short while later. Amber was stuck at the kennel and had to miss the show.

And what a show it was! (I’m still relying on eye witness accounts.) Apparently at first glance, I was totally normal, amusing, and edifying. We went to the emergency room, where there was no cubicle available, and I was on a cot in the hallway for about two-and-a-half hours. A doctor did order some immediate tests, including yet a CT scan and inexhaustible blood draws. But for the most part it was a time of waiting. June assures me that I made that period tolerable by being funny, doing Henny Youngman kind of comedy, as in "Take my wife, please!” Unfortunately, I repeated the same more or less funny lines over and over again and kept asking the same questions repeatedly on a schedule that would have diverged to infinity, given sufficient opportunity. My speech was fine; my vocabulary was on its usual niveau, alongside, say, Gustave Flaubert. For example, I asked—multiple times, I’m afraid—whether there had been a “precipitating event” for my present condition, whatever it was. The truth is that I asked lots of questions many times over (and over and over …).

Still, I remained a kind and gracious gentleman, though June and the gang were just a little surprised when I introduced her to someone as my mother. So would my real mother, who departed for a better place back in 2009. Speaking of mothers, at another point, as the “conversation” was drifting towards the topic of June’s mom, I asked her whether she was still alive or not. “Grandma,” as everyone had called her, died last year. The bottom line is that I appeared alert with my facilities outwardly intact, keeping everyone in stitches, but my material was too repetitive and based on too little information to take on the road. Dropping the figures of speech, I was in trouble, and everyone around your amnesiac bloggist, except he, was quite scared. 

I finally was moved into one of those little emergency room cubicles. My mind contains a quick snapshot of being there, but it is no firmer than the few memories I have of when I was two years old. (I have a few longer narrative memories with coherent details and self-perception from three years old on.) It wasn’t too much later that I was placed in a room on the third floor of Community Hospital in Anderson. From Tuesday evening on, there are some gaps, and, as mentioned before, some memories that did stick again seem more like dreams than reality, just as the earlier-mentioned pork chops. Nevertheless, things started to become more coherent as a whole. June left for home with Nick and Meghan in order to get some things, and Seth stayed with me. When they came back, I could not remember what Seth and I had talked about over the last hour. Seth told me that we had tried to put together the sequence of U.S. presidents, sparked by my previous failure to name of the present occupant of the White House, whom I had finally identified correctly as Mr. Obama.

June stayed with me in the hospital room the entire time, sleeping on a recliner, getting food from the cafeteria. One of the guys would have shuttled her home if necessary, but there wasn’t all that much that she needed anyway. As much as I remember now of Wednesday, it was just one test after another including another head MRI, ultrasound to look for possibly blocked carotids, etc., as well as the expected visits by the chaplain, pharmacist, and I’m just as happy I don’t remember them all. I think it was on Thursday that I went to physical therapy, where the head lady (I think) recommended that I should have a series of p.t., but for now I haven’t heard anything more about it.

Dr. G., our family physician of record, sent me home Thursday afternoon with strict orders to avoid heavy physical work or serious writing and to eliminate anything associated with any form of pressure. At that, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to go, and neither was June, but we best leave it at that in this account. When we got home, June finally got around to notifying people of what had happened, not that we yet really know what caused the whole thing. It was an unhappy task for June because she also had to include the message that I could not work on any writing projects for the foreseeable future. What complicated the matter further was that she didn’t have all the right e-mail addresses, and I had to find them on my computer in my still somewhat befuddled state. She wound up sending the same e-mail to various collections of people, some of whom got multiple copies. It goes without saying that, after some of the scariest days of her life, June still was pretty rattled. I really appreciate the responses from all those folks who said words along the line of “We understand. Right now all that you need to think about is getting better.” And—not in a legal sense, of course—June is standing guard over me as well as making sure I behave. 

This past week I underwent an EEG, which originally was supposed to have taken place in the hospital. We don’t have its results back yet. So far all of the other tests have come back negative, including ones for STDs, illegal drugs, and heavy metals (e.g., lead or mercury). What a relief! I mean, think about it. What if, for some reason that would be totally inexplicable to me, they had found methamphetamine in my blood? For now the diagnosis is TGA (“Transient Global Amnesia”—nothing more than a descriptive term), which is treated like TIA (“Transient Ischemic Attack”—for which there is only a small amount of evidence). I believe in many cases such as mine, a truly indisputable cause is never found, and that fact makes it all the more important to avoid stress or tension, which could activate the unknown cause once more.

So here I am, looking as healthy as ever, with my mind still not entirely out of its fuzziness, allowed to play music but not to work on serious writing projects. I’m back, I think—but I could have said that during the times that are now blanketed for me as well. Thanks to everyone for their support, prayers, and thoughts, as well as for understanding that people in a crisis situation are not necessarily at their best.

I know that the issue is not totally resolved. On this Thursday night I ventured a StreetJelly set, picking songs more or less randomly from my pile of “cheat sheets” with lyrics. Everyone is prone to forget the words to a song from time to time. So, I pulled out a sheet, saw that it was “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” started the song, but then couldn’t remember the first verse. I just couldn’t go on. What bothers me is not that I got stuck on the lyrics, but that it took me another 30 seconds or so to remember that I had the sheet right there in front of me, and that seeing it had prompted me to do the song to begin with.

I hope I didn’t break the doctor’s rules against “serious” writings with this post, but I think it was necessary to give my friends and other readers some more information. (Actually, the expression “friends and other readers” may be a bit redundant. I don’t know that I have any enemies, but, even if I did, I doubt that they read my blog.)

I wonder if I’ll remember tomorrow what I wrote tonight. 

0 comment(s) / leave a comment

Monday, August 24th 2015




A quick notice on matters of physical health. No particularly engaging ideas, but a few items too long for your basic Facebook post. Actually, I still have matters that I would like to bring up in connection with the North Dakota trip, but somehow the blog still isn’t finding its rightful place in my life world at the moment.

June and I are carrying on with our usual routine that always includes some health issues. I’ll mention a couple and then explain a further one, which is the one that motivated me to post this entry since it will have some effects outside of my bubble. For one thing, June has a rather mystifying problem with bad pain in her right knee. An ultra sound of the leg today didn’t show anything, so I’m afraid that it may conceivably result in back surgery. She’s hurting quite a bit, and your prayers are appreciated.

I’m still having trouble with my left hand, which, some of you may remember, I hurt a few months ago by stretching it too far with some guitar chords on StreetJelly. I skipped the next week, and ever since have liberally dosed myself with Ibuprofen before any performance. The problem has now taken specific focus because the ring finger on my left hand has become a trigger finger. I don’t know if anyone has noticed that I haven’t worn my wedding ring for the last few weeks, but that condition, and that condition alone, has been the reason.

I have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor on Wednesday, and am obviously hoping for a quick solution that won’t keep me totally away from playing the guitar for any great length of time. I know that I may just conceivably be highly unrealistic and naïve. Worst case scenario: It would be a real bummer if it interfered with the StreetJelly Meet-up on September 19. Please pray that I will accept whatever comes of it gracefully.

Anyway, what I really want to let people know is that I’m going to have a really crazy schedule for a few weeks, which will affect communication with people on various levels.

I’ve mentioned here from time to time the difficulties I have sleeping. At this point I’ve sort of settled down to falling asleep around, say 3 am, maybe 4 or 5, or maybe not at all. My circadian rhythm is highly syncopated and has drastically shifted into an unacceptable pattern, or, actually, chaos.

So, Dr. B, the neurologist is having me do “chronotherapy,” a method of returning my body back into a normal rhythm. I started last night (or actually early this morning). Specifically, I had to wait to go to sleep until 3 am and to get up at 10 am. “Tonight” (actually tomorrow morning) my sleep time is going to be 4 am to 11 am. The next day it will be 5 am to noon. Then 6 am to 1 pm, and so forth, always pushing the package back by an hour. I’m supposed to continue that pattern and move around the clock until my bed time will be 10 pm. Then I can settle in on that hour. Dr. B assured me that it would work, and I believe him because what he’s proposing is actually not all that different than recovering from jet lag, only with more thoroughness and stretched out a little longer. No naps are allowed, and I may only sleep in the bed, no reading myself to sleep or anything else.

In the meantime, I’ll probably be tired and grouchy and even slower in responding to people—if such a thing is possible. E-mail or message me at your own risk. :)

0 comment(s) / leave a comment

Wednesday, July 29th 2015


The Flora of the Prairie


Little Mo Nature TrailContinuing my report on our travel in North Dakota. I.T. suggested exploring the medicinal uses of prairie plants.  I thought that this was a good idea, but had no clue as to where to start. Fortunately, the nature trail in the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt Park provided a pamphlet, explaining various items items as indicated on little numbered posts. It didn't get very detailed with regard to the plants, but was quite helpful. So, let me just give you a little description of some of the flora encountered there. I’ll provide some of my pictures and quote directly from the guide to the trail, as issued by the National Park Service. Also, of course, I'll  make a few of my own comments, as I see them as either necessary or clever. Note: Some of the plants weren’t where they were supposed to be, and, consequently, I've used pictures from other places on the trip. If you see that something is clearly wrong, please let me know.

1. (Station 3): Skunkbush Sumac. Not a very enticing name.

“Generations of observation and trial taught the Plains Indians the value of native plants for food, medicine, and raw material. The tart red berries of the Skunkbush Sumac (Rhus aromatica) were steeped in hot water to make a drink similar to lemonade. Note the leaves growing in groups of threes. This sumac is closely related to poison ivy, but it is not poisonous.”

Skunkbush Sumac

Poison IvyTwo comments:

1. Nevertheless, unless you’re really sure, please stick to the old adage: Leaves of three, let it be.

2. The description notwithstanding, I doubt that a Skunkbush drink stand will ever replace the tried and true lemonade stand.  


2. (Station 5) Wolfberry.

“Wolfberry or buckbrush (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) is found throughout the Great Plains. The Plains Indians steeped the leaves in water and made a mixture to treat inflammation of the eyes. The berries remain on the plant through the long winter and serve as food for wintering birds.”


3. (Station 6) Missouri Willow (Salix missouriensis).

“The inner bark of willow contains an effective pain killing chemical, the same chemical found in today’s aspirin. Scientists are learning that plants used in folk remedies frequently contain chemicals that are effective in treating specific ailments.”

The chemical in question is, of course, salicylic acid. I remember concocting it in lab when I was taking Organic Chemistry.

Missouri Willow

4. (Station 12) Silver Sagebrush.

“This silvery green-leaved shrub is silver sage (Artemisia cana), one of several species of sagebrush found in the park. American Indians used its aromatic leaves (brush fingers against plant and smell) as an incense during religious ceremonies, as a fragrance for bath water, and as a seasoning when cooking meat.”

Silver Sage Bush

5. (Station 18) Prickly Pear Cactus.

“The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha) stores water in its fleshy stems (the large green pads) and can withstand long droughts. Its leaves have been reduced to spines as a further aid in preserving moisture, as well as to protect the plant. The thick, sticky juice found in the stems was used by American Indians to stabilize colors painted on hides. The cactus blooms from mid-June through July.”

Prickly Pear Cactus

6. (Station 21) Rocky Mountain Juniper.

“The small blue berries of the rocky mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) grow only on the female tree and are an important source of food for wintering birds. Plains Indians frequently used juniper for medicinal purposes, often inhaling the smoke of smoldering branches to clear blocked sinuses. Today, juniper berries are used in homemade rootbeer as well as to flavor alcoholic beverages, particularly gin.”

Rocky Mountain Juniper

7. (Station 22) Cottonwood Trees.

“Plains Indians and settlers depended upon the cottonwood (Populus deltoidis), a short-lived, fast-growing tree, as a source of fuel, shade and building materials. During severe winters the thick cottonwood bark was fed to horses. This water-loving tree ‘drinks’ up to 50 gallons of water a day and is easily recognized by the distinctive sound of its rustling leaves.”

Cottonwood Tree

8. (Station 23) Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea).

“The red berries of this common North Dakota shrub provide winter food for wildlife. The fruit is used today, as in the past, as a source of food and jam. The northern shrike, a small rodent-and-insect-eating bird, impales its prey on the shrub’s sharp thorns.”


0 comment(s) / leave a comment

Friday, July 24th 2015


Meanwhile Back in North Dakota


Golden Oriole

Predictably, I fell into my same old pattern again. Having launched two entries of the slightly newly formatted blog, my plans for the third entry were too ambitious to finish the night I started it, and so the whole blog got stalled again. Thus, below is a slimmed down and edited version of what I wrote that evening, which would have been Monday, July 13, 2015.

The fun goes on. Saturday was a catching-up-with-ourselves day. I went to the pool several times to swim and enjoy the water slide, and practiced some songs. June and I took in some of the immediate area, but did not go into the wilderness in search of adventures.

For Sunday I was able to get a place on a two-hour horseback ride through the park (or, if I have to be precise, the area right next to the official boundaries of the park). As it turned out, it was the only chance at riding a horse I would get because all other time slots throughout the week were already filled. Needless to say, I loved it. It’s not entirely fair to draw a comparison between the advantages of seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle or the saddle of a horse, but a horse can go where a bike cannot, and one does not have to worry about headwinds. The latter constitutes one of the memorable impediments of biking through the Dakotas on the Wandering Wheels Circle America trip of 1985.


I mentioned in a blog entry of last year that the horse I rode in Brown County was named Whiskey. At the end of May of this year (when the blog was taking a nap) we went back there again, and I took the long trail ride every day for five days, four of those days on Whiskey, each time bringing up the back. (On the first day I rode a different horse, and it was just the trail guide and me, which was a really good experience for learning to ride properly.) So, when it came to lining up the riders here on Sunday, I mentioned that I liked to be last in line and got my wish. It turned out that the name of the stallion that I rode was Tequila. Looks like I’m going from one drink to another. Sorry, no pictures of me riding beyond the one from last year. I might mention that, I’ve not needed any help getting into the saddle this year, possibly because I know more of what I’m doing, abetted by the fact that I’m continuing to lose weight( not that I need to).

Beaver Works


Win with cameraThe last mentioned reality leads smoothly into the next topic, which includes the purchase of a new belt. After indulging in my Karl May fantasies riding through the prairie, June and I had lunch in the colorful tourist-oriented little town of Medora and then visited a number of gift shops. She got some little carvings of horses and Bison, and despite my not entirely sincere protestations, had me purchase a new Western-style shirt, the one that I wore for my impromptu Sunday night StreetJelly.com set of you happened to catch it. I also got the aforementioned new belt because the one I was wearing was running out of space to drill holes to the right, I had already added two of my own at previous times. I picked the absolutely most conservative Western belt they had for sale, not being interested in silver studs and oversized buckles. While I’m mentioning Medora, I need to give their ice cream store a big plug for selling a superior product in quite generous portions. Very likely we’ll give them more business as long as we are in the area. [We did.]

A word of advice to anyone biking, hiking, or riding in the Western desert or grass lands. Plan on taking a large amount of water. When you think that you probably have enough, double the amount.


Today we drove out to the northern unit of T. Roosevelt National Park. I think the fact that I took 231 pictures is an indication of what an experience it was. June, who’s been having real trouble with walking, set herself up in a safe location and sent me out for a little hike with strict orders to have fun. The path I took was a nature trail with little numbered posts at various locations of interest. It was called the “Little Mo Nature Trail,” where “Mo” stands for “Missouri.” It crossed the Squaw Creek, which empties into the Little Missouri River, which is one of the headwaters of what eventually becomes the big Missouri. A free paper guide with explanations was available at the head of this short 1.1 mile loop. It took me about an hour and a half to complete it, not because I was walking slowly, but because I explored, learned, and took pictures all along the way. One of the highlights was stalking a lone bison trudging along in my vicinity at one point. I took all necessary precautions, of course. Then later on, we saw him (at least I think it was the same one), from an overlook. He was still moving, but took a break to roll in the dust a bit before carrying on.

Bison on the Move

Coming up soon: What I learned about some plants along the way.

0 comment(s) / leave a comment

Saturday, July 11th 2015


Bisons, Wild Horses, and more


With reference to yesterday (Thursday):

What an awesome the day! We drove around the loop of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Southern Segment), stopping every few minutes and keeping track of a number of areas that we want to come back to. I think I can let the pictures speak for themselves—except maybe to tell you that the horses are really wild and free-roaming. And perhaps that the American bison should not be confused with other artiodactyls in the greater buffalo family. (I'm wearing my "I majored in zoology t-shirt.") Ah, yeah, you undoubtedly knew already that the little mammals are prairie dogs. Okay, I might just mention that the bird whose tail feathers shimmer in so many beautiful colors is a Western magpie. Finally, just to cover the subject completely, the scenery consisted of rocks and vegetation of various colors.



prairie dog



wild horses


prairie dog

wild horses



June was taking pictures with her Canon camera. It's not an SLR, but it has a view finder and an incredible zoom. Her pictures are every bit as good as mine.

We met some interesting people along the way. First, there was the girl outside of Walmart sitting against the wall, strumming a banjo, taking a break occasionally to take some drags of a cigarette. The instrument boasted several stickers, right on the drum. The most prominent one declared "Beer!" She was obviously busking. I chatted with her a bit, told her of StreetJelly for rainy days, though I'm not sure she would have access to a computer. I asked her to do something upbeat, and she went through several verses of "Halleluyah, I'm a Bum."

I met another lady, at the first group of bisons. The big shaggy bovines were quite a distance away, and, in order to get the pictures I circled around a bit, getting a little closer very carefully. As I was trudging back, our paths crossed. She remarked that I must have gotten some good pictures because of my camera telephoto lens and my "bravery." I thanked her for the compliment, but clarified that there was no bravery since I made sure that I had the wind against me and the sun in my back, not to mention that I tried to keep some kind of brush work between me and the animals. The way she talked to her son made it obvious that she was not your average tourist admiring the size of the big cows. She made me think of Marie in Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (viz. the book, not the movie version of a few years ago, which totally took the meaning out of the original plot) insofar as she was a red-headed Canadian professor in the area of a conference, taking her son around the area as long as she was here. Well, actually at present she is in the legislature of Manitoba. She previously taught "Native American Studies," and I'll leave it at that since I don't know that she wants details of her life spread around. We had a good conversation. Much later in the evening, June and I were at the indoor pool and jacuzzi of this hotel, and, given the fact that we are in an area where the hotels and motels just tumble over each other, it was quite a surprise that she happened to be here as well. So June and I chatted with her some more.

Our 2004 Dakota

Also, there was a couple, about June's and my age. We were standing at the one of the overlooks, and they were very friendly as they said hello. I was really overcome by the scenery, and, since they seemed to be friendly, I let my excitement spill over with the statement that of the wonder that God not only created the world, but that he created it with beauty as well as give us the capacity to experience that beauty. Both of them assented, and then the gentlemen added that right now he wanted to see some wild horses. I mentioned that, given our experience of fourteen years ago, they would be a little further along the loop, and that it would probably take some patience to see them. He agreed, and both of us went on in our respective vehicles. June and I were a bit in front of them, when we saw our first wild horses, right by the road. As I climbed out to take pictures, I laughed across to him words to the effect of "No sooner asked for than delivered." He responded with a rougher grumpy "yeah." Maybe he was just tired or preoccupied, but he acted as though he were simply checking off animals on a mental list. Regardless, I hope his pictures turn out well, and that, in case he has problems seeing the Creator behind the creation, the fact of that relationship may eventually occur to him.

1 comment(s) / leave a comment

Friday, July 10th 2015


Another run at it ...

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: On the Road Again

So, the tenth anniversary of the blog rolled around a few days ago without entry or fanfare. Still, I’m not ready to give it up yet. Maybe if I can go back to the way it started with relatively short, diary-like entries. Hope you like the switch in colors.

True to form, this is the second time that I’m writing this entry. Last night I tried to take the easy method and write it on-line on the WYSIWYG form provided by Bravenet, and, of course, somehow lost it all right before being ready to post it. I always should write it out off-line first so that it doesn’t disappear forever just because I accidentally hit the wrong key.

June and I are now in North Dakota, letting our minds enjoy an environment that is drastically different from Indiana. Since I limit myself to 400 miles of driving per day, it took us three days to get here, and for a while I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. The only way to get here without adding 200 miles is to cut through Chicago, and that means a lot of time spent sitting in massive traffic jams. Most of the Ryan and Kennedy Expressways—come to think of it, most of the highway in Illinois right up to Rockford—was under construction. On the first day, from home to Mauston, WI, we counted 13 serious, discrete construction zones. On day 2 (Mauston to Fargo, ND), the number went down to 8. Then on the third day, which took us to here, there were only two, but they were both quite long and aggravating.

Also, I had gotten goofed up on my medications, something we were able to fix yesterday, thanks to the local Thrifty White Pharmacy. I had spent the last few days feeling as though beetles were running through my body (a crude approximation), and it sure was good when that feeling was gone. But I had to cancel my StreetJelly show early enough, given the time difference and not knowing whether the fixing of meds would work, but I will make up for it sometime soon.

Then, yesterday we just drove around the environs, soaking in a little bit of life on the prairie strictly by means of observation.

I can’t recall now whether I said anything else in the post that was intended for yesterday. Below are some pictures of the scenery as soon as you’re outside of the city limits. There’s a sample below.

2 comment(s) / leave a comment

Wednesday, May 13th 2015


Once Saved--Always Saved ?


Wow! We’ve had some really nice days last week. This week we’re paying for them with dark clouds, thunderstorms, and high humidity. Those conditions presage that it’s getting close to graduation day at Taylor. commencementAnd so my thoughts turn to the many Saturdays spent in Odle Gymnasium on little aluminum chairs feeling my shirt underneath the academic regalia turn into a saturated sponge. I must confess that I do not miss this aspect of scholastic formality. Actually, over all of those years, it was seldom scorching hot outside, but the temperature and humidity inside the building seemed unbearable regardless. For my first fifteen or so years at Taylor, two ceremonies were held on that day: a baccalaureate service in the morning and the actual commencement in the afternoon; faculty attendance was mandatory for both of them.


The baccalaureate service lasted about two hours, beginning and ending with lengthy processionals and recessionals. The featured speaker of the day would deliver his (or her?—not in those days yet) wisdom to the graduates and the gathered audience. Elaborate prayers were read from starchy white sheets of paper. The choir and the concert band would add color to the occasion by performing serious, but not austere, numbers.

There would be a little interval for lunch, and then it was time again to stride into the sauna, duly attired once more in heavy black robes. Once seated, if you turned around, everywhere you looked in the bleachers, there were people fanning themselves with programs. This part, the second half of the day, was the official commencement ceremony. As before, it featured musical numbers and speeches, including one by a selected student who would unfailingly elaborate on the theme of cherishing the memories of the past while advancing into an uncertain future with confidence—not that there are too many alternative topics. Also during this session, if Taylor University awarded an honorary doctorate to a deserving person, it took place at this time. The recipients would then make little speeches of appreciation to the institution, and, though not declaring themselves unworthy of the honor, stress that it was, indeed, an honor and privilege to receive the degree. In certain cases, a significant donation to the university, past or present, was an implicit subtext.—And  why shouldn’t it be?—The board of trustees and the alumni association would convey greetings, making sure in a subtle and non-offensive way that the university would be receptive to little donations at some point in the future. Again, it was appropriate, but added to the duration of the time the faculty was being parboiled. A representative of the parent’s committee would drop a few words of kindness. At someone’s behest, the aggregated faculty would stand and receive a raucous round of applause for their hard work. Then, finally, it was time to hand out the diplomas to the graduates. Every student lined up in alphabetical order from, say, Agatha Aaba to Zacharias Zyze,  crossed the stage as his or her name was called, and received a diploma from the hand of the registrar, along with a hearty handshake from the president, provost, dean, and chairperson of the board of trustees. (I may have inadvertently left out or added a dignitary, for which I apologize.) Oh, how can I forget the little symbolic “servant’s towel” that came with the package! I don’t mean to make light of any of the specific aspects of this rite of passage since it appeared to be meaningful to many people, but it sure was no fun steaming inside of  that building, which was the point that started these reflections of mine.

In my later years at Taylor, the faculty voted along with the administration’s decision to eliminate the baccalaureate, limit the occasion to one event starting in the morning, which could be held outside in the football stadium if conditions permitted, but which also would be quite a bit longer than either prior segment since it incorporated elements of both.

And, while I’m on the topic, congratulations to longtime colleague and friend Phil Loy for being slated to receive an honorary doctorate at this year’s commencement.


Kris KristoffersonNeither June nor I are quite yet done with doctor’s appointments. Tomorrow I finally get to see Dr. B, my regular neurologist. I have one kind of silly, but important, issue to bring up with him, and I’d appreciate your prayers. Then on Thursday, June has her surgery follow-up with Dr. G. The site of the former cyst appears to be healing okay, but I’m afraid I’m way past a point of confidence in making any optimistic conjectures. And yes, that comment reveals that my internal depression, which you probably wouldn’t notice in any casual conversation or my StreetJelly performance, is still sitting there. Martin Luther found relief from the doldrums in beer and music. Alas! I must settle for music.

Speaking of StreetJelly, I’m still searching for the proper technology to use my sequenced music as background in combination with my guitar and singing. To maybe keep you interested, here is my version of the traditional “If I had My Way,” as performed by my silicone chip combo, whom I shall call The Pythagoreans. [To be inserted ASAP] I think what I need is a mixer (not a blender, please!) as an actual piece of hardware and then learn to use it properly. To fulfill the second condition, I need some patient guidance from someone who knows what they're doing. In the meantime, please join me once again this coming Thursday, 9 pm Eastern, at www.StreetJelly.com. My loosely chosen theme is “Kris Kristofferson Tunes," but I won’t limit myself to them entirely. Also, it occurs to me that it would be fun to sneak in a couple of songs that are associated with Rita. I have a little backlog of requests from folks who haven’t been back since they asked for specific songs that I needed to learn , and I’ll be happy to attempt to fulfill their requests as well as further ones.


A question sent to me a while back:

“Once Saved-Always Saved”—Is It True?

I don’t know. As everywhere else, it all depends on what you mean by the words.

That remark could be considered smart-alecky were it not for the fact that many people hold on to the slogan per se, and I can’t respond to it without establishing some more precision of what they have in mind by it. There is no question about the general context. According to evangelical theology (which I humbly equate with biblically-based theology, formulated according to our best understanding), we hold to the belief that we are not saved by our own works, but by the grace of God alone because God himself has reconciled us to him on the basis of the atoning death of Christ on the cross. We simply need to accept Christ and his work by faith, viz. by trusting him and relying on him, not in ourselves or our own good deeds.

Thus, the slogan “Once Saved—Always Saved” could be considered self-evidently true and not carry much further interest were it not for two questions that come up at times.  

Question 1. Is it possible for a true Christian to renounce his or her faith in Christ and stop being a Christian in any meaningful sense?

Question 2. If so, does that person lose their salvation as a consequence?

Could I possibly be forgiven if I did not launch right out into an academic theological or philosophical discussion on this subject? Instead, let me start with a little vignette that is typical for the occasions when the issue actually comes up making us wrestle with these questions.

Vignette: One of the various jobs I held while working my way up the academic ladder, was as helper in a small Christian bookstore, which belonged to that rare class of Christian bookstores whose merchandise consisted almost entirely of books. Only one little corner was reserved for religious trinkets. Often potential customers would walk in and ask to look at some books as a gift that might suit a particular person in a specific situation in life; e.g., something that would provide comfort to someone in times of trouble. Obviously, to do an effective job I had to have at least a general knowledge of most of the books we carried. I wish I was grossly exaggerating in what follows, but I’m not even exaggerating on a micro level. There were many times when the request was roughly as follows: “I would like a book that will help my cousin George grow as a Christian. I know that he is saved because I was there at youth camp when he walked forward during the invitation to take Christ in his heart and signed a decision card to that effect. Unfortunately, he has not grown in Christ since that time. Right now he says that he doesn’t want anything to do with God; in fact, I think he’s probably an atheist. He’s sleeping around with different women, and as far as I can tell he’s regularly using, if not even dealing in, drugs. So, do you have a good book that would help him advance in his Christian growth?”

Oh, how I wish I had just totally made up that scenario out of thin air! But, as I said, there were multiple occasions when someone told me of situations just as crass, if not more so. A relative or friend had made some kind of a gesture towards piety, which everyone interpreted as the person having become a Christian, although the individual in question showed no evidence whatsoever of God’s work in his or her life. In fact, everything looked to the contrary.

I need to make sure that we do not misunderstand each other on a couple of points here. First of all, I obviously could not have looked into this person’s heart, not even if he had stood right there in front of me. Thus, I could not know what God had done so far or was about to do in his or her life. All I could do was to react to what I was being told and try to follow the Bible as closely as I could in doing so. Second, again obviously, whether I declared this person to be saved, lost, backslidden, or whatever, would make no difference to their true spiritual state. I neither have nor wish to have the power of excommunication, let alone any so-far-unknown authority of "incommunication." Still, I had to make a choice. Should I direct the customer to books that would help this person grow in an already present relationship with God or books that would show him or her how to come into a genuine relationship with God through Christ. I wasn’t there to do theology, though my theology was obviously going to influence what I would say and how I would act, but I was there to help the customer select the most helpful literature—without letting on my own reaction in a distractive way.

And, you see, this is where Christians really should come together in their response. One’s understanding of such a situation obviously has a lot to do with whether one is “Arminian” or “Calvinist” in their theology, but one’s actions should not, viz., not if we read the same Bible and believe in the same gospel.

If I were a classical Arminian (not to be confused with the theology of Jacob Arminius) I could conceivably believe that George had been saved at one point, had lost his salvation, and needed to be saved once more. So, in helping my customer, I would try to recommend a book that explained God’s plan of salvation and pray that his cousin George would come to understand the gospel (again) and become a Christian (once more).

If I were a Calvinist, I would conclude on the basis of whatever information the customer had just given me that, judging by his life, he had never really become a Christian, and that whatever transpired at that youth rally years ago may have been a sincere attempt by him to take up religion, but was not a genuine point of conversion. And so, in helping my customer, I would try to recommend a book that explained God’s plan of salvation and pray that his cousin George would come to understand the gospel and become a Christian.

In other words, my reaction should not be really different in either case. Whether I was coming from an Arminian or Calvinist position would make no difference. George needed to be saved.

Of course, we all know that we cannot leave things there, and that our decision must ultimately fit in with our theological frameworks. And there is certainly a lot of room for disagreement between Calvinists, Wesleyan-Arminians, and those who call themselves Arminians but really go beyond the historical, traditional boundaries of that position. Still, I really want to try as hard as I can to keep this question from bearing all of the burden of global theological perspectives. Remember the portion of Charles Simeon's interview of John Wesley, on which I have written more in an earlier entry.

Simeon: "Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?"

Wesley: "No."

Simeon: "What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?"

Wesley: "Yes, altogether."

As I have tried to point out before, the real problem is not between an Arminianism or a Calvinism as lon as both of whom seek to ground themselves on scripture, but the ubiquitous pestilence of semi-Pelagianism, the belief that we can saved because God has given us all that is sufficient for us to do the works of righteousness necessary for salvation, making our salvation a wage earned rather than an undeserved gift. There are two extremes that we should avoid: the notion that salvation is something that we gain or lose depending on whether we have committed a sin or not at any given moment, as well as the idea that once we have made some superficial gesture towards God our works make no difference any longer.

The former notion should be pretty clear if we have an understanding of God’s grace. We are saved by his actions, not ours, and our actions are not going to make God's work appear from disappear moment to moment. God saved us when we were sinners and he, of course, knew it (Romans 5:18). However, the New Testament also consistently links good works to our salvation, not as a precondition or requirement, but as a consequence. Take Ephesians 2:8-10 for example: We are saved by grace alone, and there is nothing that we can contribute to our salvation. Nevertheless (v. 10), our salvation has the purpose of doing good works. A similar point is made in the book of Titus. In 3:5 Paul insists that God saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, and elaborates on that point. Then in v. 8 he writes about the consequence of having received free salvation: so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. The New Testament knows nothing along the idea that someone who acknowledges Christianity in some way and then goes on to ignore God and sins as he pleases should still be counted among those who are saved.

Now, I would like to zero in just a little bit more on my own point of view, knowing full well that there are loyal readers who take a different approach. What does the Bible say about those who at one time appeared to be Christians but have since totally broken with God. A very clear response is found in 1 John 2:19:

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us. (HCSB)

Furthermore, I would suggest that those folks who believe that someone could lose their salvation and then needs to be saved again have a sizeable problem with Hebrews 6:4-6. These verses are often cited in defense of the idea that it is possible to lose your salvation. I don’t know about that; such an interpretation ignores vss. 1-3. In the light of the first 3 verses of that chapter, the author is writing hypothetically here, making the point that if it were, indeed, possible to lose your salvation, there would be no opportunity for re-salvation, and that latter point strikes me as quite unequivocal in the passage. Apparently, the people who constituted the original target audience of this letter were practicing re-salvation on a regular basis, and the author responds that they should move on from there. Re-salvation is not possible because if it were possible to lose your salvation in Christ, there would be no other place to go for re-salvation.

Theologians sometimes introduce a somewhat artificial distinction concerning this issue by using two different phrases, “eternal security” or “perseverance of the saints.” In this context, “eternal security” is often linked to “Once Saved—Always Saved” and may entail the codicil, “no matter what you do for the rest of your life.” In this antinomian sense, it is not a biblical idea. What you do for the rest of your life shows who and what you are. The term “perseverance of the saints” is intended to capture the idea that someone who is genuinely saved will not only remain saved for all eternity, but also show evidence of their salvation in their lives. “Perseverance of the saints” includes “eternal security,” but not as a license to sin. Those who are eternally secure in Christ will give evidence of their state by the lives the righteous life they pursue. If we would like to return to the two question we posed earlier on, the surprising, but biblical answer is “no” to question 1, thus obviating the second one.

Some people reading the above may say, “Well, that doesn’t leave many true Christians on earth,” and I won’t take issue with you as long as you don’t exclude me. But, then again, I don’t know where you get your standards, and I’m talking about something far more fundamental, namely, concrete signals of not wanting to have anything to do with Christ, not whether a man's hair may be too long or a woman's sleeves too short. Thus, I prefer not to go too far out on a limb and specify exactly what the "markers" of such a person should be, beyond an obvious concern for God, his Word, and his people. In the more extreme cases that give rise to the debate, we’re not usually dealing with subtleties. To be sure, God works individually with people through their personalities, and often when we are judgmental of a person, it’s because we have no idea how far he or she has already come. He has undoubtedly changed my life in different ways than he may have changed yours, and a third person will exhibit growth in still some other way. However, to return to the bookstore scenario, if someone supposedly has a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, and yet totally ignores God, God's people, God's precepts, and for all purposes, both practical and theoretical, renounces Christ in words and actions, I must do what I can that the person really does come to real salvation in Christ.  In accord with the best of my limited perception this person is not a Christian, and, to remain with the vignette, I should reach for, say, John Stott’s Basic Christianity than maybe some other author's Meditating with Habakkuk or whatever.

Let me to be totally open with you here. I know some people who at one time appeared to have been utterly devoted to Christ, understood the gospel and shared it, had a solid knowledge of God's Word, and yet turned around and renounced all of it. (I might add that I’m not thinking of anyone here for whom there’s any likelihood that they would read this blog. I’m thinking of people from whom I have learned, not ones whom I have attempted to teach.) I do not understand what happened or is happening in the lives of these people. So, please know that all that I said before is my best attempt, which is far from sufficiently exhaustive to cover all the riddles and disappointments of life. Fortunately, holding a theological point of view does not imply omniscience on the part of the theologian, and I can do no more than leave such enigmas in God’s hands. However, it would be a serious mistake to build my theology around some instances that I don’t understand rather than to begin with the Bible and the apply it as God permits me to have enough wisdom.

0 comment(s) / leave a comment

Tuesday, May 5th 2015


Update-Mostly Medical

  • IN THE BACKDROP: Waiting Room Television.

Yes, that’s what this is. A blog entry. I think it’s been well over six weeks, but I hesitate to look it up because I don’t like to think how long I have not been writing any. The reason has basically been physical and emotional exhaustion as well as a little medical issue on which I shall elaborate further down. Writing a blog entry, particularly one that frequently uses humor or self-deprecation in covering up more serious issues, requires the energy to understand the situation and to rise above it to a certain extent, and then to set it down with self-assurance, and that’s just not been there. To be sure, I have accumulated a little backlog of blog entries; for some of them I actually did a bit of research, and they will eventually get their turn. For now, here's just a quick and sketchy update. I’m sorry if this piece reads too much like a medical report, but that’s been a big aspect of our lives.


In trying to get things rolling again, one item to which I need to pay more attention is managing my time and energy. Please don’t get me wrong: I love answering questions that you send to me by email, messenger, on Facebook, as a comment to one of these entries, etc. The hiccup is that, once I’ve written a 3 to 4 page answer, which has not been unusual in the past, I’m done, and there is little chance that I’m also going to be able to write a substantive blog entry on that same day. So, in the future, some of you asking serious questions may receive a direct personal, but brief, answer from me, and I may wind up expanding it on the blog. Needless to say (though I’m saying it anyway), unless you asked the question publicly or have given me permission, the answer on the blog will not carry your name or other features that might reveal your identity.


As to the present, I am sitting here in the back of the large outpatient surgery waiting room of what is quickly becoming our home away from home: community Hospital in Anderson, dictating in a soft voice to the Dragon. June is now in her little pre-surgery cubicle, getting prepped by the nurses for surgery. If you’ve kept up with my sporadic notices on Facebook, you may recall that she has a cyst in her lower back that about 3 weeks ago became inflamed due to an infection. She went to see the doctor who thought it might be pretty much under control after a few days at home with antibiotics, but that did not work at all. So, two weeks ago she was here in the hospital for two days for intravenous antibiotic treatment, and then came home again, continuing with the antibiotics. When she was at Dr. G’s last week, he was surprised how little progress the treatment had shown. Surgery had been scheduled for today anyway, and they’re going through with it, but it’s still far more inflamed than we had anticipated. The good thing is that the CAT scan did not show that the inflammation had spread its tentacles right into the backbone, but — as we have learned a while back — you never really know until the surgeon opens it up and sees it. Undoubtedly I won’t get this published until the surgery is over, but your prayers for her recovery and ongoing well-being from here on out are highly appreciated.

I have now moved to the pre-op cubicle by June’s side, waiting for her to be carted into the operating room.

As for my health, skipping the details of the harmless idiosyncrasies that the cardiac test manifested, I’m doing okay. As I mentioned above, my biggest issue has been the clinical depression that just shows up from time to time. This is not due to specific external causes nor a lack of faith in God, I think, but something that just shows up and goes away again as my body attempts to manage its serotonin. I must add that experiments with the dosage of my beta-blocker haven’t contributed to my well-being. A beta-blocker reduces your blood pressure and your heart rate and may have other effects as well.  

After my crash landings in January, when we discovered that they were due to my taking too many medications that lowered my blood pressure, I completely stopped one immediately, did not stop the Levo (for Parkinson’s), and did not dare touch the beta blocker without professional supervision. I had been taking a relatively small, but efficacious, dose of the latter, call it “T,” once a day. You definitely can’t just stop taking it, and one should be really careful in discontinuing it. As Dr. G was not available, I saw, his associate, NPA (Nurse Practitioner "A"), about it, and she cut the amount of “T” in half. A couple of days later someone from the office called to tell me that Dr. G had reviewed her order and wanted me to take that half dosage every other day.

The problem is that “T” has a half life of only 6-7 hours (half of it has degraded or discharged from your body in that amount of time), and it is pretty much entirely excreted after 24 hours. So, I was riding on a blood pressure roller coaster ranging from, say, 115/70, in the morning of “on” days to 175/100 on “off” days. You can’t live that way, at least not productively. When I saw NPA again last week, she restored the dosage back to the original amount. Doing so, of course, increases the likelihood of falls in the future, but at least I’m slowly getting a life back, and I’m working on various safety measures.

In any event, as I mentioned, I’m still trying to climb out of the hole. Last Thursday evening I pretty much hit the bottom. I realized that I was not able to go to an event of my former department at Taylor, for which I felt badly. I did think that I would try my usual StreetJelly gig. Nothing doing. I was really feeling rotten. Also, the week before, as some of you witnessed, I tried to play some chords that I knew were a real challenge for me nowadays, and I promptly hurt my left hand in the process. That’s gotten better, but the effects were still lingering. So, when I was starting to get ready, it became clear that I could not perform, and that was that.

I am intending to do a show this coming Thursday, assuming I can finally get the technology straightened out. Some of you long-time readers may remember that, when I couldn’t play guitar for a number of years earlier, I filled my need for music by composing and arranging songs as instrumental midis and mp3s. This coming Thursday (9 pm Eastern) I intend to play the guitar lightly, without stressing the hand too much, and also use my own computer-generated music as background. Here is a sample of one piece that may not be on the program due to a lack of lyrics (at least so far; maybe I’ll play the harmonica to it). For this piece I challenged myself to see if I could create something that would have the same kind of rhythmic drive that characterizes the band Exile, who were big in the eighties and are still around. I’ll let you judge if the attempt was successful. I call it “Exiled in Style.” I use the program called “Harmony Assistant” and write each note, pause, dot or stress sign individually (incl. copy and paste, of course). In other words, I don’t use any midi-input machine.



June is now in surgery, so I won’t delay in posting this message, and more links and maybe pictures will hopefully appear over the course of the day.


Hold on! The doctor just came out to say that June’s surgery is already over and went well. Praise God (and the doctors, nurses, and everyone else whom he used). 

1 comment(s) / leave a comment

Friday, March 13th 2015


Radioactivity in my Body

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Really tired
  • IN THE BACKDROP: SpencerJaycob on Street Jelly

Third day; third attempt. On Wednesday evening I tried to write a blog entry, and I got quite a lot written. The problem was that, by the time I quit, I had put together several pages concerning the isotopes of the element Technetium. It was fascinating stuff as far as I’m concerned, but probably not of general interest. Then yesterday (Thursday) afternoon, I started over, but realized after a time that what I was writing, regardless of how good it may have been, was embedded in a dialectical maze of stream-of-consciousness. Marcel Proust might have appreciated it, though I doubt it, but I definitely couldn’t expect my faithful readers to wade through a lengthy article, perhaps entitled Mes Pensées Perdues. Thus, another try ...

... and, now I'm writing this a couple of hours after the above paragraph and most of the material below, another failure. General interest will just have to skip it. 

I've streamlined the information on Technetium, but doing so took as much time and energy as I have, and I'm going to post this now, because I'd rather start with something fresh the next time. An additional factor is that Bravenet has done a thorough revision of its journal entry format, which is incredibly nice, but I have needed to familiarize with it, and now I'm eager to see how it actually will come out. 

So, let me tell you about the last few days, which, as I mentioned in the last entry, would be taken up by dentist visits for June and cardiac testing for me. I told you that June usually has a really hard time in the dentist’s chair, and her experiences on Monday and Thursday weren’t great. We must say, though, that Dr. D, the dentist, is being more aware of her particular needs than any other one she’s had previously. I mean, who wants to hear, “That couldn’t possibly hurt!” when it hurts? Dr. D actually studied up on Wednesday evening on how to approach a patient with June’s dental arrangement.  

The weather has finally risen above freezing. We’ve had a good amount of rain, resulting in flooding in some counties of Indiana, but not ours (yet). However, there is an incredible amount of mud everywhere.

If over the last few days you have noticed that my giving off a warm friendly glow, the reason could be that I had been injected with a radioactive element. It happened in conjunction with the two-day cardiac test on Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought it was just going to be a treadmill stress test until Monday evening when I glanced at the doctor’s orders and found a word that I had to look up because it was not familiar to me. The word was "Cardiolite," and it refers to a preparation of the radioactive element Technetium. So, at that point I realized that radioactive imaging of my heart was a part of the test, which gave me a (totally unnecessary) strange feeling. I can tell you that the results of the purely stress part  of the test came out fine, but I’m still waiting to hear or read the results of the radioactive aspect. Seriously, I didn’t glow, though if I had been near a Geiger counter on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, it would have detected a small amount of radiation in me. The worst part of the procedure was having to stay off some of my medications and all forms of caffeine for several days. Unsurprisingly, I wound up with a pretty bad headache by Tuesday evening, which remained at a mitigated level through Wednesday. 

I wanted to put the results of my internet study of Technetium in a table alongside other material, but since I changed my mind and am not adding any further material, I'll leave it as a list in the main text. 

Fun Facts about Technetium

  • Its symbol is Tc; its atomic number (number of protons in the nucleus) is 43.Thus its formal abbreviation 43Tc, with the atomic number as a subscript to the left. But everyone who knows about Tc should probably know its atomic number anyway.
  • Its existence was predicted by Dmitri Menedleev (1834-1907), the first person to put together a functional (i.e. accurate) periodic table. 
  • Tc is the first element in the periodic table that has only radioactive isotopes, no stable ones. Isotope designations refer to the atomic mass of an element. Cf. Carbon, atomic number 6 (6C), has the isotopes Carbon 12 (stable) and Carbon 14 (radioactive)—hereafter 12C or 14C. The notation for an atomic mass is a superscript to the left.
  • Technetium was the first element in the periodic table, as well as in history, to be almost entirely the product of synthesis; hence its name, which means “artificial.” It is usually a by-product of the fission of Uranium (235U) in nuclear reactors. (A few traces of 97Tc, found at some natural radiation spots on earth, are an exception.)
  • The isotope of Technetium with the longest half-life is 98Tc lasting a venerable 4.2 million years. That expression means that it would take 4.2 million years for one half of any given mass of Tc to decay.
  • There are different ways in which Tc emits radiation. The end product depends on the process. It can be an isotope of Molybdenum (42Mo) or Ruthenium (44Ru)
  • The isotope of Technetium used for medical testing is 99mTc; the "m" stands for “metastable,” which means in this case that it does not decay into another element, but into another isotope of Technetium, namely 99Tc.
  • 99mTc has a half-life of ca. 6 hours. It gives off gamma rays, a form of electromagnetic radiation, as it decays into 99Tc. Almost all of the 99mTc will have gone through this transition within 24 hours.
  • 99Tc has a half life of ca. 210,000 years. Its process of decay releases negative beta rays, which means that certain neutrons turn into protons, electrons, and anti-neutrinos. Its end product is 99Ru.
  • The above point does not mean that I will have 99Tc in my body for the rest of my life, even though the life span of my present body will most likely be less than a compounded 210,000 years. Presumably I will have excreted all of it within a few days. Thus, just as with Moses, the glow—if there had been any—would fade.
7 comment(s) / leave a comment